Going analogue

Over the past few months I’ve been pulling together a bunch of interesting and quirky pedals to put together a pedal board. When I was playing live more then my pursuit was for simplicity and reliability which lead me to the Line 6 Pod XT Live. Now most of my playing is back at home I’ve felt the need to put a foot back into the analogue world.

Here’s what I’ve got so far.

Left-to-right and top-to-bottom, they are;

  • Boss RV5 Digital Reverb – I traded this for a TruArc stainless steel bridge with one of the guys from the Gretsch Discussion Pages.
  • Digitec DigiDelay – Bought from another member of the Gretsch Discussion Pages.
  • Dod Flanger 575B – Kindly donated by fellow Six String Blissner, Doug Darrell. This is a really interesting pedal. It is an absolute beast and takes either two 9v batteries or a 20v DC power supply. I’m currently trying to track down a suitable power supply but if I can’t find one I’ll be building something.
  • Behringer UT100 Tremolo – A budget buy from eBay. I stumbled across it going for pennies within a couple of minutes of ending. One of my more successful snipes. Not a particularly robust enclosure but sounds brilliant.
  • Alfalfasprout69 Custom Shop Blue Alpaca (Way Huge Red Llama clone) – The one that started me off on this pedal board route. Custom made for me by Alfie, of Six String Bliss fame. Quite simply the mutts nuts of overdrive. This does absolutely everything I want.
  • FirstAct 222 Distortion – When Clint sent me the Crybaby this was tucked in the bottom of the box. A wonderful surprise. I’d put it in the same class as the Behringer Tremolo – not classy, not desirable, plastic box, sounds as good as any boutique pedal I’ve tried.
  • Nocturne Dyno Brain – I got this one from Pappy of FifthFret.org. A gem of a pedal. It replicates the preamp section of a Roland Space Echo. It has currently got a noise problem (that I suspect is a grounding issue) which I need to fix.
  • Alfalfasprout69 Custom Shop Tonekicker – This is a small 18db preamp that is designed to fit into a guitar, made by Alfie, but which I have housed in a small enclosure.
  • Dunlop Crybaby Wah – A donation from Clint Searcy of Searcy String Works fame. It has seen better days but within second of switching this one on it is obvious why it is a classic. It is easy to forget, with so many mods and clones available, the reason this pedal is so much modded and cloned is that the original is an absolute gem.

New overdrive pedal arrives. Behold the Blue Alpaca!

I posted recently about the overdrive pedal that my good friend, Alfie, had made for me. Today it arrived. In the flesh this thing is a real beauty; put together by a craftsman.

I hadn’t expected the personalised baseplate that Alfie added.

Nor was I prepared for the very clean way he added the LEDs to the case. When they’re off you can’t see the LED at all. Switch it on and they glow brightly through the bronze finish.

Of course, none of this beauty matters if it sounds crap, but that is certainly not the case. I’ve only played with it for an hour so far, but it is as close to my perfect overdrive as anything I’ve ever plugged into. It covers the bases from mild and creamy through to biting almost fuzz-like. The tone and hump controls are very subtle. The tone on most pedals leaves you with a 20-30% range of the adjustment between the extremes of what is usable. The tone of the Blue Alpaca is useable right through the range. As will be expected, I’ll be putting my recording where my mouth is, but I’m going to spend a day or two getting to know my new baby first. Patience is a virtue, right?

New overdrive pedal is on its way

A few weeks ago I asked my good friend, Alfie, if he would consider building me an overdrive pedal. I was delighted when he said “yes”. Alfie is the man behind Sydney boutique pedal maker Alfalfasprout69 Custom Shop. Perhaps his best known pedal is a variation on the Way Huge Red Llama, that he calls the Blue Alpaca. Here is a demo of the original.

I’ve asked for a slight variation on the standard build – there is usually an internal trim pot that allows you to tune the EQ to suit a particular guitar. Because I’m hoping to use this with many different types of guitars and basses I asked if this could be moved to the top panel to give an additional level of control. Alfie calls it the “hump” control.

Today I received an email from Alfie telling me that it had just gone into the post, along with a couple of pictures of the pedal. I don’t know about you, but it is a long time since I’ve seen something quite as luscious as that.

Of course, as soon as it arrives I’ll report back with more pictures and sound clips.

The Bullmastiff: A DIY Fuzz Pedal

I’ve finished my DIY fuzz pedal based on the Roger Mayer Classic Fuzz.

I found schematics for it at Fuzz Central and based on this and this, drafted my own version.

I made two key changes to the original schematic;

  1. I found the quality of the fuzz was very sensitive to the value of the resistor that sits between the battery negative and the collector of the first transistor, so I replaced the specified 5.6k ohm resistor with a 47k pot.
  2. I had a pair of silicon transistors available and so wired these in with a DPDT mini switch that allows me to switch between the germanium and silicon transistors. Amazing the difference this makes. The germanium sounds much smoother and “creamier” whereas the the silicon transistors have a real sharp edge to them.

I used veroboard (aka stripboard) for the circuit board and here are the details of the layout, should you wish to do something similar yourself.